The year has now rolled past its tipping point and the days are inexorably starting to shorten once again – but there is still a whole lot of summer left and we intend to make the most of it.
On the longest day we returned to Reculver, near Herne Bay on the north coast of Kent, to give the dog an outing and see how the Sand Martin colony was getting on.
Strung along the cliff there are clusters of Sand Martin burrows and, around them, the air becomes wonderfully alive with the calls of Sand Martins as they bring food in for their chicks and take out their faecal sacs.
This next photo was taken of an adult Sand Martin just about to emerge from its burrow on the right with a faecal sac in its beak. It was only when I was going through the photos later that I saw the three chicks huddled together in another hole on the left:
Two more chicks peering out of their hole:
I came across a blog of someone who has been birding in the Reculver area for many decades. He reported that there are only about thirty pairs here this year which is much lower than normal. Since this is the first year that we have visited the colony, we didn’t know to be depressed about this and were actually delighted with the nesting birds that we saw.
Although we did notice that this section of Sand Martin burrows, nearest to Reculver, was completely devoid of birds:
Let us hope that this year is a blip for them. We shall visit again next year and hope for better things.
There are a thousand or so different plant galls in Britain, where an insect or other organism co-opts a plant into forming a protective structure to assist it through a particular stage of its lifecycle. There are fifty different galls on our oaks trees alone. We were on holiday recently with a lady who was fascinated with galls, particularly their artistic form so that she could draw them, and I think she would have liked this attractive one that we found on ground ivy in the wood this week:
The gall is caused by the gall wasp Liposthenes glechomae and the sphere will contain a single wasp larva at its centre:
The larva pupates in the galls over winter and the new adult will emerge in late spring
It was a dull day in the wood and this well camouflaged Hummingbird Hawk moth was resting on the woodland floor, awaiting some sunshine
I have lost count but I think that it is about ten Great Spotted Woodpeckers that have been caught and ringed in the wood this spring. Possibly our peanut feeder is bringing them in from far and wide.
During a ringing session in the wood this week, a juvenile with its red cap was also ringed.
A badger cub with its parent in the wood:
Once again, the camera looking at the woodpecker hole in the cherry tree has caught a bat going in to roost in there:
Before our daughters wedding last week, we were seeing a lot of this young badger in the meadows. Every day it was coming out into the meadows in the afternoon:
However, since we have returned from our few days away, there have been no further sightings of any of the badger cubs, even on the cameras. The dry spring and early summer will have been very difficult for them since their main food source, earthworms, have gone down deep and inaccessible. I hope to see them again but suspect I might not.
We have this very distinctive magpie here this year, with lost facial feathers revealing its ear:
Here is it eating a snail and we have often seen magpies eating these, as well as rodents, eggs and small birds:
However, we have never caught them red-handed with lizards before:
But magpies don’t always have it all their own way. Predator became prey this week when we saw one in the mouth of a fox:
Another camera caught this as well and I can see that it is the One-eyed Vixen that has got the bird:
This next photo caused much discussion amongst the family when asked what they thought this was in the mouth of the fox cub:
Can I see black furry legs? It’s not a black cat, is it? Or a crow? I have a second photo from a different camera:
This is definitely another bird in the mouth of the One-eyed Vixen:
And this is a dogfish:
I find it so interesting to see the range of prey items taken by our country foxes. Of course the foxes in the meadows also have a small serving of peanut protein at dusk each night:
What an extremely sweet young rabbit and how nice to not see it in the mouth of a fox:
We are enjoying seeing all the Starlings that are here at the moment:
One of them is colour-ringed although I am not even close to being able to read that ring. There is apparently a lady who colour-rings starlings in nearby Deal and no doubt this bird is one of hers:
In the wet early summer of last year, I loved seeing blackbirds and song thrush with their beaks stuffed full of worms to give to their young. This year it has been so dry and there hasn’t been anything like that at all on the cameras – I wonder how they are feeding their chicks?
But baby blackbirds are starting to be seen in the meadows now, so some alternative food was clearly found for them:
When the neighbouring field is growing grain, plucked seed heads are discarded all over the meadows and we did suspect the crows. Now we have some evidence for this:
This crow has an orderly row of four brown pellets in its beak. I don’t know what they are but the bird has come to soften them in the water before swallowing:
On a cool day this week, I looked under one of the reptile sampling squares where there is a black ant nest and there were a very large number of ant pupae of two different sizes:
The ants were in the process on transporting some more of the larger pupae up to the surface:
The next day was much warmer and there were no pupae at all to be seen under the reptile square. They had all been taken back underground:
Presumably the pupae are being put in different places to keep them at the right temperature, but what an extraordinary amount of work that is for the ants. Ants are a very important part of the meadow ecosystem here and I have set myself the challenge of finding out a bit more about them and why there are two different sizes of pupae.
Some other images from the meadows this week:
Sunset over the meadows shortly before 10pm on the longest day:
A section of the first meadow that we seeded seven years ago with native perennials is looking absolutely fabulous and is heaving with bees and butterflies:
What a wonderful time of year, I wish I could bottle it.